It’s that time of year again! The stores are stocked with brand-new backpacks, pencils and lunchboxes. This time can bring different levels of anxiety, excitement and joy for both parents and children – especially before the big leap of kindergarten.
Being both an educator and a parent of three (ages 13, 8 and 1), I always want my children to be successful in the beginning of the school year. I’ve been in education for over 10 years. My focus has been in elementary education with a background in both kindergarten and first grade at charter schools in Detroit, Flint and Pontiac. I’m now in the process of opening Next Steps Preschool in Pontiac.
All along the way, there’s one thing as a teacher I’ve always thought at the start of the school year: “I wish I could’ve met with my parents over the summer.”
Every single year, I say the same thing after “Meet the Teacher” – “I wish I could’ve given them a heads-up!”
So, this is me spilling the beans on a few things about preparing kids for kindergarten that I wish parents knew before their kids walked into my classroom.
Having background knowledge in these areas will help your child’s kindergarten teacher accelerate their learning and have a successful year.
1. Social skills and school skills
Yes, “school skills.” Kindergarten should not be your child’s first exposure to being around other kids. It also should not be the first time your kid has had to listen to someone else besides you.
Kindergarten is harder on students that have not been around other children or exposed to an environment where rules are present (for example, in a preschool setting, day care, organized sports, Sunday school, etc.). Kindergartners are expected to sit and be able to listen to a simple read aloud.
2. The alphabet and some sounds
All right, this is a big one! Does your student know his or her letters? NOT the song, but the actual letters (out of order)? Maybe they don’t know all the letters (b/d confusions and p/q confusions are normal). But do they at least know the letters in their name?
Stepping foot in kindergarten should not be the first place your student has seen letters. Yes, kindergarten teachers will go over the letters and sounds, but in most cases, teachers do not want to spend a great deal of time on every single letter.
There is a lot of growing that takes place in that classroom. Your child should be reading when he or she leaves kindergarten. So talk about the letters with your child early. Write some letters down and have your kids tell you what they are. Where does your child fall?
3. ‘I know my name’ (not a nickname from family)
Can your child identify her name? Would he be able to find his name on a desk, cubby or locker?
After introducing myself to the child and parents, I have them go find their desk; then I have the students write down their names in our classroom attendance book. Now I know if your student can do both – and what I need to do to help your student in this area.
If your child is having struggles with this, grab a highlighter, write her name and have her trace it a couple of times.
4. Concepts of print (basic book handling skills)
Can your student hold a book? Has your child been read to? Does he or she understand that we read from left to right, top to bottom? Again, students in kindergarten should be reading by the end of the year.
Kindergarten teachers go deeper with these concepts and provide learning experiences that will enhance their skills. However, having background knowledge in these areas will help teachers take your child to the next level in their learning.
Roashan Howard is a happily married mother of three in Clarkston. She has over 10 years of classroom experience in both kindergarten and first grade and is trained in reading recovery.